Still On The Heart Of Africa Project

by Uche Nworah

Maybe it is the nomenclature syndrome (the uncanny temptation and tendency by public officials to re-name or re-brand policies or programmes anytime a new team gets appointed or nominated) that has caught up with officials of the Federal Ministry of Information and National Orientation, else why has the Nigeria Image Project metamorphosed into the Heart of Africa Project? Does Nigeria lie in the heart of Africa?

I am sure it is also not due to lack of imagination, because Alder Consulting, the project consultants have a lot up their creative skills to know that recommending the new name for the Nigeria image project, will obviously be a dumb sell.

It beats one’s imagination how those involved with the project arrived at the new name for the image project, knowing that the phrase has always been used to refer to countries such as Malawi and Congo which are buried deep in the heart of Africa. Even Libya and Kenya lay claims to the phrase as well. A simple internet search would have revealed all these facts, so why get in among the crowd? Why waste efforts and resources trying to position Nigeria as the Heart of Africa in the minds of the global community, when we could have easily leveraged on our already recognisable brand name (Nigeria) and phrase (the giant of Africa).

Countries like Uganda, not in any way comparable to Nigeria in terms of human and material resources, seem to be executing a better themed and more organised re-branding programme with their Gifted by Nature campaign. For sure the country’s image advertisement currently showing on CNN far outclasses by a million poles that of Nigeria which featured Obasanjo in the unceremonial testimonial role and was aired sometime last year on CNN. South Africa also provides another good example of how countries should package themselves, as evidenced by their Proudly South African image programme.

Unless the Information and National Orientation ministry’s geographers have different techniques of reading the map, but if it is the same map of Africa which we all know that has given them the impression that Nigeria is indeed at the heart of Africa, then they may have goofed.

In the long term, it is in Nigeria’s interest for the project coordinators to rebrand the project once more, and to stop making further mis-representations in their several communication efforts by calling Nigeria the heart of Africa, because it is not.

Leveraging on Nigeria’s age – old and self styled Giant of Africa adulation may even be more effective and desirable, although such chest-thumping claims may no longer be realistic in today’s Africa, where South Africa has taken over the economic leadership of the continent, but still Nigeria can easily put together a long list of firsts and attributes, that will at least justify to some extent its claim of being the Giant of Africa.

Still on the image project, I just think that the work of the project coordinators is becoming increasingly difficult? In public relations terms, the concept of ‘whitewashing’ exists, where with the help of ‘spin doctors’, an unpleasant situation is projected in a positive light, but such techniques and strategies can only work in the short term, I am sure that the Nigerian government is not after short-term solutions, and so with regards to the image project, the Nigerian government through its various agencies, parastatals and institutions may just be its own worst enemy. This is because they are the ones undermining the achievement of the objectives of the project, and not just the 419ers, social commentators and Nigerians in the diaspora as the government would have Nigerians believe.

For any gains made by a positive step and action on the part of the government, there are at least four backward steps being recorded as a result of the actions of other government officials.

Thus it is difficult to actually score Nigeria high in the international community as a result of the efforts of change agents and reformers such as Mrs Ngozi Okonji-Iweala, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, Oby Ezekwesili and Charles Soludo, because their efforts are blighted by the ineptitude of other government officials, the likes of Prof. Babalola Borishade in the Aviation ministry and the several state governors and Chairmen of local government. Recently the state department in America issued one of their regular travel warnings but this time, they cautioned American and EU citizens about flying Nigerian owned/operated airlines. Translated more succinctly, the message simply is telling those who still want to brave flying Nigeria’s airlines that they are ‘on their own’. Such reprisals and indictments in the international community obviously set the hands of the clock backwards for the image project coordinators.

Should the Nigeria image project be discontinued? Not really, but in order to benefit from the 600 million naira budgeted for the project, the Nigerian government should involve the states and local governments as well, so that they will all be singing from the same hymn book. This is because Nigeria does not only start and end in Abuja, Port Harcourt and Lagos, usually Nigeria’s ‘poster towns’ ; there are also other towns where the potential investors and tourists can visit and set up businesses, but which are currently not attractive b

ecause of a combination of factors (poor infrastructural development, crime, bureaucracy etc).

Tourism is high on the agenda of the Nigeria image project, but without guarantees of security of lives and property, it may still be a while before we start seeing white bodies lining our beaches (I’m not talking about the Caucasian residents), particularly in places like Lagos, where moving around at night is like going on a suicidal mission.

Many Nigerians are hungry, and angry, they rob, steal and kill in desperation because they have no jobs. To reverse the trend, the government should open up the economy further, by investing massively in roads, water, housing, electricity; local businesses can then pick it up from there (inward direct investments), and maybe then, the foreign investors will take the cue.

You may also like


IKECHUKWU ANYA March 11, 2008 - 11:55 am

you are just good. my day is fulfilled reading through your views.

Helen Irene Efue August 11, 2007 - 3:24 pm

I think Uche's article is succinct and an expert's views on many aspects of the Heart of Africa Project. I share his reservations about the Project's name as it still takes some effort to focus on Nigeria when I come across it. However, the best part is that Uche has proffered suggestions at improvements that should be useful to the policy makers – for free – if they have time to gather feedback.

Okechukwu Okonjo March 7, 2007 - 6:33 am

Watch the disruption of the so-called Heart of Africa project by MASSOB.

Follow Youtube link:

Anonymous January 27, 2006 - 8:35 am

i have just taken an interest in all these article contribution of many people here, i like what mr uche nworah said but to ask is why is Nigeria like this? some people says that other country do call Nigeria Gaint of Africa, any way it may be true but my question is that do they know what we are going through here in Nigeria esp the eastern side of Nigeria.Like what uche said that, not in any way to compare the countries like Uganda with Nigeria in terms of human and materials, human it is true but what of that of materials we do produce but i stille ask why is so costly? if am to so i will call Nigeria a country full of resources, the cause of it been costly is that the poeple that is in the site don want to make Nigeria what it surpose to be" and another of my question is that when will Nigeria look like london,canada new york city? etc so i need an answer to this question.

Nosa January 20, 2006 - 5:25 pm

I've just taken an interest in all these internet articles. And I realize so far that the cheapest article to write on the internet is the one that depicts Nigeria as a hopeless case. It's followed by another type that portrays every Nigerian public official as bad.

The bottom line is that only the writers have solution to our nation's problem except that all they do is treat us all to incessant theories.

Uche, the American State dept can warn American citizens about the risk of air travel in Nigeria all they want. But what has the same State dept said about the plane crashes in the United States! And what has it said about the ever rising crime rate!

Surely, every nation has its bad eggs among public officials. But we need to acknowledge without reservations the good works of Okonjo-Iweala, Ekwessili, Adeniji, Ribadu and other selfless individuals who are contributing their quotas to Nigeria's re-awakening. We should not gloss over or ignore the works of these people just so as to maintain an ignoble culture of cynicsm.


Leave a Comment